Lady Ottoline Morrell
Lady Ottoline Morrell
by Augustus John
oil on canvas, 1919
27 1/8 in. x 20 1/8 in. (690 mm x 511 mm)
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1990
Sitterback to top
- Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938), Patron of the arts; half-sister of 6th Duke of Portland; wife of Philip Edward Morrell. Sitter associated with 596 portraits, Artist associated with 1715 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Augustus Edwin John (1878-1961), Painter. Artist associated with 33 portraits, Sitter in 106 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Lady Ottoline Morrell, the chatelaine of Garsington Manor outside Oxford, was a ferocious socialite, friend and lover of artists and writers, including Augustus John, whom she first met in 1906 and with whom she had a brief affair in 1908. He began this portrait in 1918. When it was exhibited in 1920, most people were critical of it. The Star called it a 'grotesque travesty of artistocratic, almost imbecile hauteur'. The Manchester Guardian, however, recognized its merits: '... an ideal portrait in the Johnian sense in the way that it makes life more exciting and fantastic and unlikely'. Lady Otttoline herself liked it and hung it over the mantelpiece in the drawing room of her London house. It is well described by Michael Holroyd in his biography of Augustus John: 'Her head, under its flamboyant topsail of a hat, is held at a proud angle and she wears, like rigging, several strings of pearls (painted with the aid of tooth powder) above a bottle-green velvet dress. Her eyes are rolled sideways in their sockets like those of a runaway horse and her mouth bared soundlessly'.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Bakewell, Michael, Character Sketches: Fitzrovia: London's Bohemia, 1999, p. 20
- Gibson, Robin; Clerk, Honor, 20th Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1993, p. 12 Read entry
Half-sister to a Duke, daughter of a general and wife of a pacifist MP, Lady Ottoline was as grand as she was unconventional. During the first quarter of the century her home, at first in London and from 1913 to 1924 at Garsington Manor in Oxfordshire, was a refuge and a source of encouragement, patronage and inspiration for a glittering string of contemporary artists and intellectuals. ‘The Garsington Set' at various times included D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, Henry Lamb, Lytton Strachey, Aldous Huxley, W. B. Yeats and, from 1908, Augustus John. A brief affair between John and Lady Ottoline was over by 1909, but the portrait, made about ten years later, is a testament to their lasting friendship. Thought to be unflattering, this masterpiece by one of the foremost British portrait painters of the century was highly controversial when first exhibited. It hung over the dining-room mantelpiece at the house in Gower Street where the Morrells moved on leaving Garsington in 1924 and was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery from the estate of Lady Ottoline's daughter in 1991.
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 211
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 211
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 182
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 182 Read entry
Lady Ottoline Morrell, the chatelaine of Garsington Manor outside Oxford, was a ferocious socialite, friend and lover of artists and writers, including Augustus John, whom she first met in 1906 and with whom she had a brief affair in 1908. He began this portrait in 1918. When it was exhibited in 1920, most people were critical of it, the Manchester Guardian writing that 'It is like one of the queer ancestral portraits you see in a scene on the stage, although it is done by a man of genius'; but Lady Ottoline herself liked it and hung it over the mantlepiece in the drawing-room of her London house. It is well described by Michael Holroyd in his biography of Augustus John: 'Her head, under its flamboyant topsail of a hat, is held at a proud angle and she wears, like rigging, several strings of pearls (painted with the aid of tooth powder) above a bottle-green velvet dress. Her eyes are rolled sideways in their sockets like those of a runaway horse and her mouth bared soundlessly.'
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 442
- Spalding, Frances, The Bloomsbury Group, 2013, p. 80
- Spalding, Frances, Insights: The Bloomsbury Group, 2005, p. 70
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- The Camden Town Group and beyond (27 November 2010 - 31 August 2011)
Events of 1919back to top
Current affairsSir John William Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown pilot the first successful non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland, flying 1980 miles in their modified Vickers Vimy bomber plane in just over 16 hours. Their achievement won them a £10,000 prize from the Daily Mail newspaper.
Art and scienceJohn Maynard Keynes publishes The Economic Consequences of the Peace, an influential economic text that criticised the harsh economic treatment of Germany at the Treaty of Versailles and predicted the destabilising effects of the vindictive settlement.
InternationalThe Paris Peace Conference negotiates the peace treaties between the victorious and defeated powers. The Conference culminated in a number of treaties including the Treaty of Versailles, which granted independence for the countries under Austrian and Russian rule and forced Germany to accept responsibility for the war and pay reparations. It also established the League of Nations.
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